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What is Communication Complexity?

 , updated on October 28, 2017
Communication complexity is the amount of communication required to complete a process or achieve an objective. In the context of an organization, communication complexity is a function of the number of people involved in a process.

Calculation

Communication complexity can be approximated as the number of potential unique conversations that can occur in a group. If you have a team of two people, only one type of conversation can occur. However, if you have 4 people, there are 6 unique communication paths. This can be calculated as follows.
The formula above approximates complexity of communication by the number of one-to-one communication paths that are possible in a process. This is an exponential function meaning that organizations, projects and processes that involve a large number of people have far more potential communication paths:

Office Politics

Communication complexity may help to explain the common observation that large organizations suffer from inefficiencies due to office politics. With a large number of communication paths, the number of potential moves in a political struggle are many.

Leadership

Leadership is a common solution to communication complexity. If everyone in a large organization is communicating on a one-to-one basis, communication is extremely complex. Leadership simplifies communication by having communication flow from people with authority and influence to an entire group.
Overview: Communication Complexity
Type
Definition
The amount of communication required to complete a process or achieve an objective.
Related Concepts

Communication

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